If you want to elevate the flavor and texture of your roasted or smoked chicken, try this quick and easy chicken brine recipe!
Made with simple ingredients, this easy chicken brine is perfect for a smoked whole chicken, thighs, or chicken breasts. Trust us when we say that using this brine is your best bet for producing moist, juicy, and tender meat.
If you are new to brined chicken, you’re in for a treat. We all love grandma’s Sunday chicken recipe, but even grandma couldn’t guarantee a juicy tender chicken every time. This quick chicken brine recipe will help you manage that risk. This brine will infuse wonderful flavor and plumping action that helps keep the bird moist and juicy, especially during low and slow cooking.
Why should I brine chicken?
Chicken meat is quite lean, especially the breast, which makes up a large portion of the surface area. That means that it’s prone to drying out. To address this issue, cooks will use a wet brine solution to infuse moisture and flavor into the meat. Some of the solution is absorbed by the meat, resulting in plumper and juicier chicken. This technique is especially useful if you plan to cook the chicken at low temperatures in a smoker.
- 8 cups water
- Kosher salt
- White cane sugar
- Fresh rosemary
- Cinnamon sticks, optional
A Note About Salt
Not all salt is created equally. In truth, we should be measuring salt by weight. For this recipe and all our brine recipes, we choose Morton Kosher salt. It is consistent in size and weight and dissolves well. The size of the crystal determines the amount of salt by volume. It is important to use this kosher salt rather than table salt or diamond crystal salt.
Making a chicken brine
- A chicken brine recipe consists of 3 main items: water, coarse salt, and sugar.
- The salt and sugar are simmered with 2 cups of water in a large stockpot until dissolved.
- The brining mixture is then removed from the heat, diluted with more cold water, and the remaining ingredients are added to the pot.
- The chicken brine MUST be cold before submerging the chicken. Let the brine cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then place it into the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes before using.
How to brine a chicken
- First, make sure you have a large enough stockpot to accommodate the brine and the chicken.
- For whole chickens: Submerge the chicken in the solution, cover the stockpot, and place it into your refrigerator for 6 hours.
- For parts like breasts, legs, and thighs: Place chicken parts into a large marinating/oven baking bag, and pour brine over top. Secure the bag and place it into the refrigerator for 4 hours. If you’d like to brine some chicken wings, please see our Wing Brine recipe.
After brining the chicken
- Remove the chicken from the solution and gently blot dry with paper towels.
- Season the chicken with a low-sodium or salt-free rub, and cook as directed. Keep in mind that the brine will impart some salt flavor.
- Please refer to one of our turkey brines for poultry weighing more than 4 pounds.
- Always use coarse salt like kosher salt for brine recipes.
- Make sure the brine has cooled completely before using. Do not submerge the chicken in warm or hot liquids.
- Add your favorite herbs, spices, and savories to this brine recipe.
More recipes to try
Chicken Brine Recipe
- 8 cups cold tap water
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 3 cloves garlic smashed
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 1-2 small cinnamon sticks optional
- In a medium stockpot, simmer for 1 minute over medium heat, 2 cups of water with sugar and kosher salt.
- Once they have dissolved, remove the stockpot from the heat.
- Stir in garlic, rosemary sprigs, peppercorns and optional cinnamon stick. Add the remaining cold water.
- Let the chicken brine cool for 30 minutes. Then place the stockpot into the refrigerator for 30 minutes, until thoroughly cooled.
- Once cold, submerge the whole raw chicken into the brine liquid. Cover the pot and place it back into the refrigerator for 6 hours.Brine chicken pieces like thighs, breasts, and legs for 4 hours.
- Once brined, remove the chicken from the solution, and pat dry with paper towels.
- Season with low salt or no salt rub, and cook as directed.